Referencing sources verbally in sermons is actually easier than you might think. Often pastors slip into the plagiarism of preaching realm because they feel like referencing sources makes their sermon sound like a paper. You do not have to sound as though you are giving a presentation in a freshmen speech class to cover your integrity in preaching.
After talking with a few Wesleyan preachers, hearing their way of handling references, and reviewing some of the sermons that we have on our site that did show integrity we came up with some ways to make it natural. Here are some “cover your integrity phrases” you can use easily without sounding like a geek:
1. “Here’s an idea I heard while listening to another pastors’ sermon this week. I think it is a powerful way to put it…”
2. “Like a great author once said…”
3. “As the poet put it…”
4. “Chuck Swindoll preached on this passage several years back. I must admit that his outline so well matched this passage’s message that I am using it heavily today. But you can’t blame my stories on Chuck.” [Smile]
5. “I want to share with you a sermon preached by a pastor I look up to greatly, Nancy Ortberg. She said it better than I could. So if you’ll forgive me, I am going to share with you major sections of that sermon because I think they fit our church like a hand in glove. Where they don’t fit, I have added in my own thoughts.”
6. “For today’s sermon I used a significant amount of material I found in my research. A list of the sources are posted online for those of you who want to dig into it some more. It would just take too much time to reference them all.”
7. “I once heard a preacher stand in front of his congregation and preach on this very text. He looked out over his congregation after reading this passage and said….” [then just tell the story of the preacher preaching].
All of these are attempts to give credit where credit is due just enough that people know when ideas are yours and when they are not. The goal is to find natural ways that fit your speaking style and send the signal clearly. If honesty is our guide, and we are creative in our phrasing a few things will happen.
First, we will not have to worry about using other’s thoughts as all good sermons use insights born from research. Second, our people will have an increased sense of our integrity. They will subconsciously know that if we use other’s thoughts, we are honest about it. Third, we may even increase the respect our people have for our sermon work. Phillip Brooks was right that preaching is “truth poured through personality.” So it needs to be our own. Yet at the same time, the truth that pours through us gains validity when verified by others voices as well.
Once you have a quiver full of casual phrases ready at hand, it’s easy to follow this simple rule. When in doubt, give a shout out. Happy preaching.
– Dave Ward and the Wesleyan Sermons Team